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In which John discusses some surprising news regarding his relationship to the drug lord Joaquín Guzmán, aka El Chapo, who is currently in prison in Mexico. Also discussed is John's novel Paper Towns, book reading as a countercultural activity, and the odd lives that books can have.


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Good morning, Hank, it's Tuesday. Today's video is like Alice's Doc McStuffins Lego: it comes to you in only one part.

Part 1: the news. I am, of course, referring, Hank, to the El Chapo news. So a couple weeks ago, I got a text from my mother in law that said, "You need to read the El Chapo story in The Washington Post." El Chapo, for those unfamiliar with his work, is the currently imprisoned alleged leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel and according to The Washington Post article in question, the world's most notorious drug lord. He's known for his ruthlessness and daring prison escapes and from everything I can gather, he's like not the kind of person you want as an enemy, so I'm gonna tread pretty lightly here, Hank, because I am nothing if not a coward.

Right, so anyway, I start reading the article, which details some concerns that El Chapo's lawyer has about the conditions of El Chapo's imprisonment. It's reported, for instance, that El Chapo is only allowed to watch one hour of television per day, and also that during his 65 days in a Juárez prison, he has only been allowed two intimate visits with a concubine.

The article also asserts that during his imprisonment, El Chapo has read two books, the Spanish novel El Final Del Ave Fenix by Marta Querol, and John Green's high school love story, Paper Towns. Now, first off, I'd argue that Paper Towns isn't so much a love story as a learning that romanticizing someone isn't the same thing as loving them story, but yeah, apparently El Chapo has read one of my books. Which, you know, is a little weird. I mean, I guess Paper Towns is about a larger-than-life character who enjoys well-plotted escapes and has a bit of an empathy deficit, so maybe he found it relatable?

I have so many questions! Did he like the book? How was the Spanish translation? Did he ship Ben and Radar? Did he emerge from the reading experience imagining Santa more complexly? But the biggest question I have is like, how? How did a book I wrote eight years ago end up in a prison in Juárez, Mexico? Which led to an even larger question. I started wondering how, like, anyone ever found my books.

You might be thinking, "Well, everyone else was reading them or whatever", but in fact, that is not true. While my books have been far more widely read than I ever could have imagined, more than 97% of Americans haven't read one. So my readers are still in a relatively small club, Hank, it's just like, you know, you, a few other people, El Chapo... In fact, at this point, reading any book is almost a countercultural activity. Like, a recent survey found that almost 30% of American adults read no books in the last year.

So, Nerdfighters, no worries if you haven't read one of my books, but if you have, I'm wondering if you can share with me in comments how you came to read it. Or I'd love to hear the story of any book that found its way to you through strange and unexpected circumstances.

And yes, I am hoping to use these answers for inspiration in the coming months as I work on my new story. Speaking of which, I should go back to that, Hank, I will see you on Friday.